Yes, the human mind works in strange ways – at least mine does. There are things I know, historical facts for example, that are connected, but I don’t see them as such. Not all the fault is mine: when you learn something in different learning environments or different contexts, and at different ages, too, maybe it is normal that they don’t appear to be related.
Take translations of christian holy books: at school I studied the Reformation, so I know that the catholic church did not want the Bible and the gospels to be translated into vernacular languages, or church services to be held in those languages. Later , at university, I learned about Wycliff’s translation. All that was a long time ago. More recently, maybe twelve years ago, when I started studying the history of the English language and become interested in archaic germanic cultures I learned that there had been several translations of parts of the christian holy books, starting in the 4th century with the Gothic bishop Wulfila, and going on in England, first with Bede then at King Alfred’s time. Oh and let us not forget retellings, from Caedmon’s songs to The Heliand, the Saxon gospel. I am sure there were others I can’t remember or have never heard of – I am not an authority. I know the same process took place in the Slavic countries, too.
And you will be wondering, what has this got to do with fiction?
I finished reading A column of Fire the other day. As it is set during the reigns of Mary Tudor, Elizabeth I and James I, it deals with the religious conflicts that arose from the Reformation, both in the British Isles and in continental Europe. Some characters actively fight to restore catholicism, and some of them persecute protestants who print, sell or just possess translations of the Bible or other religious books. Some characters are brutally executed – on both fronts.
Then yesterday morning I watched the new episode of Vikings, in which a warrior bishop recites the first few lines of Psalm 23 (The lord is my shepherd, I shall not want, you know) – in Old English. And CLICK, memory dawned on me: in the dark ages the church allowed translations in order to convert the pagans (these would mostly be the work of monks and clergymen). A few centuries later, it started burning people for doing the same, asserting that you can’t possibly want anything but the Latin standard version, the Vulgata. Consistency, anyone?
Anyway I found it ironic that it had taken a novel and a tv series to put together two things I had known (and kept separate) for ages in my mind. It is as if reading the novel and watching Vikings hade dug a little wormhole in my brain so so that two compartments of my memory could finally be connected.
Better late etcetera.